baking without butter and wheat

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i've been trying something a little new . . . gluten-free and/or vegan baking. this is partly because, well, i moved back to california. but also because my main baked goods audience has shrunk to the very lovely people who work for the somm.

and they HAVE to like my baking! it's a win win win.

just kidding. 

i'd already gone down the gluten-free road for the yogi. and after having read about how terrible wheat is for you.

plus there are so many fun types of flour out there! i now own about 10 varieties taking up precious freezer space. right next to my highly glutenized leftover bagel dough. whee!

i do not yet have an opinion on what type of flours i like best. luckily, there are many wonderful bloggers who regularly share their wisdom. i've been spending time with gluten-free girl who has many great recipes and some really lovely writing on her blog. she has a great post on how to put together your own gluten-free flour blend. it doesn't require you to buy anything that sounds too crazy (xanthan gum? seriously? isn't avoiding words like that WHY we bake at home?). 

almond and coconut were my gateway flours. who doesn't like almonds and coconut?

also, chocolate?

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i pulled this recipe from the new york times, which also likes them some gluten-free girl. i skimped on the bananas – don't do that! add plenty of chocolate chips. almond, buckwheat and rice flour are the stars here, but next time i'd cut back on the buckwheat. you want something lighter to really let the chocolate and banana sing.

served warm out of the oven, these didn't immediately seem gluten-free.  want a close up of that tender crumb?

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pretty normal, right? 

but do NOT give them to your vegan friends. there are eggs and buttermilk in there, the sneakers. plus, we've got something else for them.

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there are a number of vegan alternatives for eggs. so much good learning, and i would especially like to thank the kind woman who saved me from myself in the tofu aisle at the food co-op.

yeah, i'll pause to let that sink in. caleeefornia!

the tofu you want, that tofu is not in the refrigerator section of the market. it's the shelf-stable stuff. but i went for the flax seed slurry substitution. 

slurry! almost as good as shelf-stable tofu. 

just mix one teaspoon ground flax or chia seeds with three tablespoons hot water for every egg you're replacing. let the slurry sit, then add to the batter.

ground flax seeds can be found in the oatmeal and hot cereals section, NOT with the various gluten-free flours and starches in the baking section.

are you writing this down?

also, skip the honey and use agave. skip the buttermilk or yogurt and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk. 

double the blueberries. whip yourself up some blackberry jam.

have yourself a muffin fest.

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Vegan & Gluten-Free Buckwheat Blueberry Poppyseed Muffins

Adapted to be vegan from the New York Times

  • 180 grams (1 1/4 cups, approximately) buckwheat flour
  • 100 grams (3/4 cup, approximately) gluten-free all-purpose flour mix or whole grain gluten-free mix*
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) baking soda
  • 3.5 grams (1/2 rounded teaspoon) salt
  • 2 eggs or 2 teaspoon ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons hot water
  • 125 grams (1/3 cup) agave syrup
  • 360 grams (1 1/2 cups) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 75 grams (1/3 cup) canola or grape seed oil
  • 5 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 10 grams (1 tablespoon) poppy seeds (more to taste)

*For the gluten-free flour mix I used about 70 grams of a mix of teff, almond and rice flour and 30 grams of arrowroot starch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack adjusted to the middle. Oil muffin tins. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Add any grainy bits remaining in the sifter to the bowl.

In a separate bowl combine ground flax seed and hot water. Stir and let sit for a minute. Beat in agave, almond milk, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Do not beat for too long; a few lumps are fine but make sure there is no flour sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Fold in the blueberries and poppy seeds.

Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. Place in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned and well risen. Remove from the heat and if the muffins come out of the tins easily, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack. If they don’t release easily, allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Best served with some sort of butter product (that means Earth Balance for you vegans) and jam.  

Yield: 12 muffins (1/3 cup muffin tins)

Advance preparation: These keep for a couple of days out of the refrigerator, for a few more days in the refrigerator, and for a few months in the freezer.


pretty darn good brownies

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we're back to baking with julia this week. i have so much catching up to do.

does this blog need yet another brownie recipe? probably not. but here you go! 

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julia, dorie and rich katz all seem to agree that these are the best-ever brownies. they are good. ridiculously fudgy. impossible to over-bake. 

the texture is light and creamy, in part from the technique, which has you hold back half the eggs and whip them into a fury. the bubbles help give the brownies structure without the weight of too much flour.

i threw in some walnuts at the request of a friend, and they added a nice crunch. 

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we've discussed my freezer issues before. in addition to loving to freeze unbaked cookies and all manner of other things for cooking, i love a good frozen baked good. the somm was the lucky recipient of various delightful thin mint treats for christmas that went straight to the freezer when we got home. there is something about the mint and chocolate combination that tastes right cold.

i really did try not to eat them all.

love you honey!

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anyway, the recipe promised that extreme fudginess would keep the brownies from fully freezing. thus making them supreme ice cream mix-ins. 

the frozen brownies lasted approximately five seconds in my house. so i pass the challenge onto michi, who has the added benefit of having her ice cream maker accessible in her home. rather than locked in storage container in the wild of the suburbs.

someday, dear ice cream maker, someday i will see you again. in the mean time, there is plenty of trouble to be had.

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want more fun tips on the recipe? new york times, to the rescue. in addition, this recipe was hosted by a beautiful mess through the tuesdays with dorie: baking with julia project.

Best-Ever Brownies
from Baking with Julia

1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour and salt together and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a watchful eye on the pot to make certain the chocolate does not scorch.  Add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture and stir for half a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl. 

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into the bowl of a mixer and whisk by hand just to combine.  LIttle by little, pour half the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don't set from the heat.  Fit the whisk attachment to the mixer and whip the remaining sugar and eggs until they are pale, thick, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes.  Using the rubber spatula, delicately fold the whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture.  When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients. 

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 9-inch square glass or ceramic pan.  Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a little and the top will turn dark and dry.  Cut into the center at about the 23-minutes mark to see how they are progressing.  They will be perfect if they are just barely set and still gooey.  Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack.  Cut into bars and serve.

The brownies will keep, covered, for 2-3 days at room temperature and can be frozen for up to a month!

 

almond chocolate biscotti . . . or chocolate toffee cookies.

Biscotti, anyone?

i don't really understand biscotti. i like a gooey cookie. a chewy, melty chocolate chip cookie. i can handle a crispy cookie . . . a ginger snap or crumbly shortbread. but biscotti. what, my friends, is the point?

this isn't to knock the joy of dunking. i very much enjoy a good milk-soaked oreo or graham cracker. but the biscotti doesn't do it for me.

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i tried here. the baking with julia recipe was for hazelnuts. but i decided to pull a total hilary. i used almonds. and rather than buying frangelico, i made amaretto.

that's right. i have two mason jars of boozy almond goodness in order to put two teaspoons of almond liqueur in these bad boys.

but neither the homemade amaretto or the judicious addition of chocolate could save the biscotti from their inherent hard as a rock biscottiness. they were lovely biscotti, easy to make (even with the exceptionally unnecessary step of homemade liqueur, a recipe for which you can find at shutterbean) and were munched down by italian and spanish fans alike at my euro cup party.

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but still. if i'm going to eat a cookie, friends, biscotti will not get the job done. my newest cookie obsession will: chocolate toffee cookies, courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Chocolate Toffee Cookies

yeah, that's the stuff. the perfect slightly gooey center, crisp and chewy edges, intense chocolatey goodness with the crunch of slivered almonds and caramely, toothiness of the heath bar crumbles. dunking optional.

if you insist on enjoying biscotti, check out the recipe at tuesdays with dorie

irish car bomb brownies

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we all know i’m a crazy overachiever when it comes to desserts. i may be half-assing my way through many many other parts of my life, but when it comes to treats, i want them to be made from scratch.

except for brownies.

i love me a good brownie. rich, fudgy, with chewy edges.

but from scratch brownies? you know the pitfalls. too cakey. not gooey. not chocolaty enough. and ghirardelli box mix? it treats me right, every single time. i like a brownie i can count on.

well, this recipe may break me from my ghirardelli habit.

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these brownies are insanely chocolaty and nearly as easy to whip together as a box mix.

at least compared to my other overachiever dessert recipes!

there’s no waiting for butter to soften, there’s no need to use the stand mixer. you will, however, just have to resign yourself to getting chocolate everywhere. unless, unlike me, you have self control and can keep your fingers out of the chocolaty batter.

like many of my recipe discoveries, i found this recipe to use up the bottles of guinness that have been lurking in my kitchen since st. patrick’s last year when i made these irish car bomb cupcakes that rocked my world.

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but cupcakes. they feel so daunting. they are not a weeknight recipe. they are not a sunday-afternoon-crap-i-forgot-we-agreed-to-bring-dessert-to-that-dinner-party friendly.

these brownies are. and they give you way more instant chocolate gratification. extremely dense and fudgy. almost like a flourless chocolate cake by with a bit more of a bite. the edges won’t get that great chewy character of the box brownie, but these are by far the best from-scratch brownies i’ve ever had.

plus, they are a GREAT use for stray bottles of dark beer you may have lying around.

my first night in england on my year abroad, a group of us naive americans ordered a round of guinness at our first pub outing. not realizing that we were in london, not dublin. and that fosters or carling, or even cider, would be not only a more traditional, but also a more tasty choice.

don’t worry, by the end of the year we all managed to get quite high marks in our chosen extracurricular: drinking habits of uni students.

just thinking about snakebites to this day makes me feel a bit queasy.

anyway. guiness, while foul by the pint, is delightful with chocolate. the bitter, sweet, and caramel notes of the beer complements and draws out the best in good dark chocolate.

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Irish Car Bomb Brownies

The original recipe had stout in the glaze-like frosting, but I found that to be a bit intense. the second time I made these, I added a glug of Bailey’s instead and much preferred the sweeter flavor as a contrast.  I’ve also sprinkled sea salt on top, and that’s pretty tasty too.  Adapted from Epicurious – find the recipe here.

  • 1/2 cup stout (such as Guinness)
  • 16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s liquour

preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 9x9x2″ metal baking pan with foil, leaving a 2″ overhang. Bring stout to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

Stir 12 ounces chocolate and 1 cup butter in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Whisk sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in chocolate mixture, then 1/4 cup stout from pan. Fold in flour and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake brownies until surface begins to crack and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35–40 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool for at least 20 minutes.  Alternatively, these work well in mini muffin tins – bake 10-12 minutes, and then let set in the tin for about an hour (or cheat and let them firm up in the freezer for 15 minutes).

Stir remaining 4 ounces chocolate in a medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted and smooth. Add Bailey’s, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; whisk until well blended.

Pour warm glaze over brownies. Let stand at room temperature until glaze is set, about 40 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using foil overhang, lift brownie from pan; cut into squares

 

 

twd: baking with julia: rugelach

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as a kid growing up in southern california, rugelach were not abundant. we were an oatmeal cookie kind of family. as an adult, the cardboard specimens i ran across left me unimpressed. they always seems so dry. the filling wasn't gooey or rich enough.

this recipe CHANGED MY MIND. for serious. it was a multistage process, but it was worth every moment.

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there was rolling. slash beating of that mighty hunk of dough with a rolling pin.

there was chilling. more rolling. slicing, dipping. way too much eating.

but these rugelach were some of the best cookies i've ever had. rich and buttery, coated in cinnamon sugar that gets crisp, caramelized, chewy.

i made two types – apricot and dried cherry, with homemade apricot lekvar, and dark chocolate with nuts and cinnamon.

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lekvar is a type of jam made from dried apricots. the flavor is deep and rich.

i think maybe my secret was an excessive amount of filling. i did not manage to create much of a spiral effect, and that is even after i scooped a bunch of filling out of the way post first attempt, which, by the way, was fantastic over greek yogurt. no homemade lekvar went to waste here! 

i'm pretty sure this isn't what the rolls of deliciousness were supposed to look like.

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the dough kept melting and needing to be rechilled, making me curse the concept of rolled pastry, but silently, so the somm wouldn't think i was going too crazy.

the result was cookies that are almost like slices of pie – rich, chewy centers of dried fruit or chocolate, surrounded by the tender cream cheese crust.

just because it was a novel trick for me, i'm going to say that rolling the crust out with a dusting of powdered sugar instead of flour helped keep the crust so light and tender despite my repeated mangling attempts to get it to behave.

they aren't pretty, but man were they good.

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this recipe made a lot of cookies. i tried foisting them off on friends, neighbors, coworkers, but still ended up freezing about a dozen.

and discovered a whole new way to love rugelach. oh, good lord. frozen, they are even chewier and more satisfying.

i really felt initiated into the community of rugelach lovers when describing my triumph to a friend's mother who seriously knows her way around good pastry and she whispered . . . have you tried them frozen?

yes, barbara. yes i have. there's no going back now.

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seriously, if you have a free weekend, do yourself a favor and make these cookies. just be sure you have a distribution plan, or you WILL end up eating them all yourself. find the recipe in this book, or at tuesdays with dorie, including this week's hosts jessica of my baking heart and margaret of the urban hiker

and here's this week's gratuitous shot of manchego, the cat who is too cool for rugelach.

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spicy double chocolate cookies

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the next two posts i have planned have a theme: using food to make friends.

i have told you before that i am shameless in using baked goods at the workplace. here is my latest entry . . . a revamp of a tried and true chocolate chocolate chip cookie. inspired by this recipe, i decided to up the flavor with cinnamon, super finely ground coffee and cayenne pepper.

these are serious cookies. they come to play.

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clearly, they aren't the only ones.

they make an impression. this is a chewy, soft, brownie-like cookie. it isn't crisp. it's rich and fudgy.

leave out the spices and coffee, and this is as true a chocolate cookie for chocolate lovers as you can get.

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add the spices?

you'll leave people wondering just what it is about those cookies. they'll ask you for the recipe. word will get around. 

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mission accomplished.

Spicy Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Crisco – don't judge until you try them!

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp finely ground coffee or espresso powder
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 1tsbp water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 package chocolate chips – I find I like the bigger chunks for this recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together dry ingredients – flour through spices and coffee – in a medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat shortening, water and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to wet, mix at low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until set.

twd: baking with julia: chocolate truffle tarts

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this tart is truly decadent. chocolate crust. chocolate filling. it's bursting with chopped milk and white chocolate and biscotti.

naturally, i took it as dessert to a dinner party featuring about eight types of cheese.

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at this point in meal planning, you just have to give up and embrace overindulgence as the theme of your evening.

as beautiful as the tarts came out, they were pretty simple to put together. instead of many individual tarts (which is too much tart for one person anyway) i made one regular sized tart and one smaller "for two" tart.

well, it should have been for two, but the somm was away, so i enjoyed it myself. in several sittings. so as not to go into sugar shock.

first, a note about crusts. my crust dough did not come together the way the recipe described.

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i failed at the task of smearing it together with the heel of my hand. thus, when i went to attack it with the rolling pin, i mostly succeeded in scattering crumbs about my rollpat. slash all over my kitchen.

just pressing it into the tart pans worked out great. and i love any excuse to avoid the rolling pin. it stresses me out.

and i am NOT in the kitchen to get stressed out.

this is also the reason i prefer graham cracker crusts to traditional pie crusts. fruit crumbles to fruit pies. they taste better and there is less anxiety about your butter staying cold in order to flake appropriately.

maybe baking with julia will help me overcome my fear of rolling in desserts.

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see how lovely and scalloped and only slightly "rustic" that edge is? my crust was a total winner. like a cookie. not too buttery.

the filling also set up firm. maybe it was those eight (eight!) egg yolks. the best way to separate eggs is to crack them into your hand and let the slipperly slimy egg whites fall through your fingers. it feels so wrong, but works perfectly. way better than shuffling the poor yolk back and forth between raggedly egg shell halves.

there are nearly equal parts chocolate filling and mix-ins. i thought the biscotti was a strange ingredient but it kept a nice crunch in contrast to the harder bite of the chocolate chunks and silky smooth filling.

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check out those chunks in action.

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despite my previous admonishment to simply embrace the excess of this tart just as it is, i will now caution you to back away from the thought of serving it a la mode.

i was tempted. i had visions of overly complicated homemade ice cream flavors.

but really?

all it needs is a scoop of light as air, soft whipped cream. maybe with a hint of almond extract to pick up the anise of the chopped biscotti.

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so good. to seem more lovely tarts and find a link to the recipe, check out tuesdays with dorie.